August London Android Meetup

android.gifI went to the London Android Meetup this evening. There was a presentation by Robert Munroe on lessons learnt building a podcast application, followed by Leslie Drewery who talked about accessing large databases on mobile and finally Reto Meier, author of the book Professional Android Application Development, who now works for Google as an Android Advocate (i.e. an Evangelist).

I found Leslie Drewery’s talk interesting as he gave tips on how to access large volumes of data, some of which as happened to have used in my Android Freeware. He suggested having an intermediate server to allow intelligent caching of data and formating into a format suitable for the device.

As Leslie pointed out, this provides added control. For example, in my applications I can change the source data or respond to changes in the source data format without users having to install new versions of the phone software. Furthermore, it allows me to send additional information such as ‘server down’ or ‘upgrade now’ messages should these ever be required. Also, I can track how many and how often people use my applications.

Leslie also gave some interesting thoughts on how to provide for offline access to data when the phone’s signal (or 3G) might not be available. For example, sending complete SQLite formatted databases when a strong signal is available.

Reto (from Google) couldn’t give much information away but stressed that Android Market woes (such as viewing on web, screenshots, payment inconsistencies) are a big priority for Google. However, there’s only a small team working on the Market and they have been mainly concentrating on geographic breadth. Reto also said that apps that are featured in the Android Market are there because they are great apps (its an editorial thing) and not for any other reason.

Someone brought up the problem of differentiating the capabilities of future devices (GPS, Wifi or whatever) vs application capabilities. Reto gave the opinion that this might not be a problem because we may see that newer phone have more capability and old apps should work.

I personally think the opposite will happen. Some manufacturers will produce cut down phones that are cheaper to manufacture and may be more attractive to consumers in these difficult financial times. Unless Google has done so already, it needs to think hard about reducing some the problems of fragmentation otherwise people will be paying for applications and finding they don’t work.

Unlike MoMo London, this was definitely a developer meetup. It will be interesting to see the suits move in once all those promised phones ship and people start seeing there’s money to be made from Android applications.